In an effort to make discussions of gender identification less invasive for students, the Arizona Interscholastic Association approved changes to the language of its transgender rule at its Dec. 10 meeting.
The changes were made to Article 41 (found on page 7 of the meeting minutes), which pertains to the AIA's sports medicine rules. Students or parents are still required to contact their school's administrator or athletic director if the student "has a consistent gender identity different than the sex listed on the student's school registration records." But previously, students were required to explain why they were making the request, as well as the point in time in which they began to identify with a different gender.
The new language of the rule requires "a description of the student’s gender story, including age at emerging awareness of incongruence between sex assigned at birth and gender identity and where the student is in the gender transition process." The new language also requires a letter of support from the student's parent or guardian, rather than "documentation of the student's consistent gender identification affirmed by" the parent or guardian, per the previous rule language.
AIA executive director David Hines said the change was made in order to make a highly personal discussion less intrusive.
"We listened to the kids, the parents and the docs that kind of oversee this process with us, and took some of their suggestions," he said. "Sometimes when a question is asked, the kids were a little uncomfortable responding. So, what the docs said is, 'Look, we’re not trying to be specific; we want to know kind of the process that you’ve gone through. Just give us your background.' We’re getting the same information, and the kids feel it’s a little less invasive."
In 2014, the AIA approved its first transgender student-athlete to participate in a sport. Hines said only two or three students in Arizona have requested gender identification changes over the last several years, and all of those requests were approved.
"If you were to meet each of these kids, you would probably (say) this was a no-brainer," he said. "None of them are dominating (in their sport). They just want to be part of the team, and their team accepts them. It’s a positive thing, not a challenge."
Hines doesn't expect an influx of new requests as a result of the language change, nor does he expect students to attempt to use the rule for any sort of competitive advantage.
"I think it’s a challenging time for the kids, and if they have felt comfortable and they recognize themselves as another gender and have for a long time, then those are kids that we’re looking to try to help. We’ve been real fortunate not to have someone that was trying to get an athletic advantage," he said.
"It’s been a very positive experience that we’ve been going through the last five or six years, and we think this will be a good move ... We're just trying to move with the times. We had a policy for a while and we’re learning more and more, and trying to be helpful."